5.21 The Failure of Success
This blog has been sitting here collecting dust the past few weeks. Pretty much everyday, I’d sit down with the intention of writing about the successful pre-sale campaign for my book. Wanted to wrap things up, thank everyone who participated and sort of do a post-mortem. Of course, first and foremost, I do want to thank everyone - it was quite a remarkable experience and I deeply appreciate all the support. But there was something nagging at the back of my brain, something stopping me from writing. Quite literally stopping me as I’d sit and stare at the screen. The blinking cursor became a curse. Changed things up, tried the old fashioned way with notebook and pen. The blank page even worse. To be completely honest, the nagging feeling grew into something else, a generalized terrible disposition that made my appetite disappear except for the emotional binge eating of entire cylinders of Pringles, sleepless nights, dreams when I rarely dream, mornings of physical pain and the inability to complete anything of value during the days. I was bouncing from a state of deep depression to a paralyzing sense of fear that would strike my bones and I’d just have to close my shades.
Two things. First, when I don’t write, there’s a problem. Second, that problem is best dealt with by writing. I’ve been busy with many things that are not writing. Yes, things like the campaign have to do with writing, but not directly. It occurred to me this evening, right before sitting here to work on this, that when my writing started to get better, when it evolved and led to the book, it was because I took chances and talked about some difficult subjects. Subjects people connected to. And many times, I worked them out in real time on the page. Tried to get deeper into it as I was writing it. So, this is a bit of back to basics.
Since starting to write this, I’ve stopped and looked at a specific word in the first paragraph. Successful.
Let me back up a few months. I’ve been working on this depression thing for a while. I interviewed a neuroscientist for the podcast who helps people become aware of their patterns of behaviour in the hope to help change negative thoughts biologically. I explained to the neuroscientist in that first appointment about how I was working towards releasing this novel within a few months. I explained that I’m a very good worker, work my ass off, but when it comes time to release that work into the world, I pull back and believe it’s not good. This is a clever way to self-sabotage on a few levels: the work goes nowhere and I’ve proven to myself that it’s not good. This also avoids having to deal with success.
Told the neuroscientist that I didn’t want to do this anymore, this pattern of behaviour that has played a part in pretty much every one of my personal projects. I don’t want to say that it’s the only reason, but a it’s a big one. Told the neuroscientist that this book was too important, I’ve put too much work into it. I need to push through this and see what the fuck’s on the other side. We went to work.
In a way, I feel like a crazy person because of what I’m saying. That I’m so afraid and uncomfortable with success that it makes me physically ill. When preparing for the campaign, I had a specific way of presenting myself and the project. As the campaign progressed, the work paid off and I was so encouraged and appreciative of the support. During those thirty days, I kept most of the negative feelings in check, mostly by ignoring them. As the campaign came to a close, we’d not only reached the goal, but went over. It was an intense period of time and frankly, I was overwhelmed by the positive support. A week went by, then two, the generalized terrible disposition grew.
Wait a goddamn second.
As I’m explaining this to you, I’m also explaining it to myself. So, I’ve identified that I put the work in and then fail to release it into the world with any sort of confidence. If I look back at all the personal projects I’ve done, all the films and all the writing, nothing has ever gotten this far, nothing - except for actually completing it - could be deemed successful. I just looked at the campaign page and in big font it says, SUCCESSFUL. And with a goddamn exclamation mark.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I like to feel in control. When I walked into the neuroscientist’s office, what I was really telling her was that I was heading towards a place that would involve a complete lack of control. I wanted to push my work past where it had gone before, see it to the end with my head held high with the belief that it was not only good, but is worthy of people to take their time and give it to my work. That not only would it be good enough to put the work in, but to get it out there as much as I could, and if it failed, it failed based on the quality of the work and not of any sense of self-sabotage.
Really, I’m just scared because I’m in a place I’ve never been before. I’ve pushed past the usual place of dismissing my own work. I’ve put it out there and after this first stage of the campaign, it was not only successful, but more than successful. Fuck it, let’s do this. Let’s go all the way. Through the campaign, I gained support from some incredible people and it feels a little like I’m running a marathon and these people are cheering me on and telling me this is good and it’s working and this gives me confidence, a confidence in my work I’ve never had before. We all need support, we need people to push us, challenge us to break new ground and so I thank all these people and I want to tell you that I’m scared but that’s okay because I need to get used to it.
When I don’t write, there’s a problem. That problem is best dealt with by writing.